Cellulosic Facets

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 18, 2011

Conversion technologies are often the focus, but the emerging industry of cellulosic ethanol development is multifaceted. In this issue, Associate Editor Kris Bevill writes about the latest ideas on feedstock logistics. As we all know, a commercial plant will need mountains of feedstocks. Many are concerned about how getting all that biomass in motion is going to work. There’s an interesting divergence of views: Some say farmers will want to retain the added value and do the work themselves; others say a system for custom biomass harvest is required. Associate Editor Holly Jessen takes a different look at the feedstock issue. She reports on new cover crop ideas that could allow for more stover to be removed for cellulosic conversion. Cover crops have had a hard time catching on, in spite of their many benefits such as improving water quality by reducing nutrient leaching, because of the lack of economic return. Enhancing feedstock supplies for cellulosic production could have the ancillary effect of improving corn’s environmental performance—and might just take some of the heat off corn ethanol, too. Covering another facet of the nascent industry, there’s plenty of uncertainty on the market side. Bevill takes a look at the issues surrounding the volume mandates for cellulosic biofuels in the renewable fuel standard and the struggle to get the renewable identification number system for cellulosic and advanced biofuels functioning. From feedstock logistics to changing corn agronomics to market mechanisms—all areas have many unknowns, requiring input and ideas from many.

Author: Susanne Retka Schill
Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine